The Path to Forgiveness

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S (Scripture): Matthew 18:15 (Jesus said to his disciples) “If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together. If they listen to you, then you’ve won over your brother or sister. 16 But if they won’t listen, take with you one or two others so that every word may be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses. 17 But if they still won’t pay attention, report it to the church. If they won’t pay attention even to the church, treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector. 18 I assure you that whatever you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. And whatever you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven. 19 Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.”

21 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?”

22 Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times (or seventy times seven).”

O (Observation): Jesus is talking to his disciples about sin. He shows that the humility of little children is what is expected of those entering the kingdom. Then Jesus warns against causing these little ones to sin – cut off your hand, pluck out your eye, should you find these to lead you into sin. He says not to look down on these little ones (that is, those who have humbled themselves as little children), but indeed risk leaving the righteous to pursue the one who wanders astray.

So Jesus is setting up this conversation about forgiveness with a call to humility and mercy. That someone who sins against you should be treated fairly and with respect. That this one who sins against you should be treated with grace and mercy.

Often, we see the line “treat them as you would a Gentile and a tax collector” and you would think that means to treat them with disrespect or as lesser than you…but how did Jesus treat sinners and tax collectors? With grace and mercy! (In fact, he called a tax collector to be one of his disciples!)

The beauty of this arrangement of approaching one who sins against you is that if an agreement is made between the two parties, God promises to be in their midst and bless them.

Then Peter does an interesting thing: he opens his mouth : ) (Haven’t you learned yet, Peter? : )

Forgiveness is not capped off at a certain quota. There is no quota when it comes to forgiveness.

A (Application): Much harm has been done by those who take these Matthew 18 verses out of its context. They take the part about approaching those who have sinned…and they use it as a justification for going after those “sinners.” Sometimes that means individuals…sometimes that means whole groups of people.

What these folks are missing is the context. Treating those who sin against you is the key here, and to treat them with respect. Don’t look down on these folks. With a broken and contrite heart…approach those who have hurt you. As if you’re talking to a little child. (Not in a condescending way…but a gentle way.)

I’m not saying avoid the conversation…just take care in the tone used and the attitude of your heart as you approach the person.

And remember that forgiveness was given to you by our God in Heaven. So, too, do we give forgiveness to those who sin against us.

P (Prayer): Lord, we are broken people and harm one another. Remind us that you pave the way for forgiveness between us. Amen.


Parental Advice…Who Needs It?

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S (Scripture): Isaiah 63:15 Look down from heaven and see, from your holy and glorious perch. Where are your energy and your might,
your concern and your pity?  Don’t hold back!
16 You are surely our father, even though Abraham doesn’t know us, and Israel doesn’t recognize us. You, Lord, are our father;
your reputation since long ago is that of our redeemer.
17 Why do you lead us astray, Lord, from your ways? Why do you harden our heart so we don’t fear you? Return for the sake of your servants
the tribes that are your heritage!
18 Why did the wicked bring down your holy place?  Why did our enemies trample your sanctuary?
19 For too long we have been like those you don’t rule, like those not known by your name.

O (Observation):  God’s people, in a time of great desperation and feeling abandoned by God, call out to God.  They have never known Abraham or Israel (Jacob) directly, yet they feel a great kinship to these legendary people of faith…like the Lord is still their mutual Father.   

Isaiah calls on God to uphold the reputation as their redeemer.  God’s people feel as if God has abandoned them.  What if perhaps God has let them rule themselves for a while…not abandoning them…simply letting them rule themselves for a bit.   Perhaps it would seem as if God abandoned them…but really God may have just been waiting for the invitation to rule this stubborn people again, once they’ve seen they cannot rule themselves.  

A (Application):   What does it take to tell your parents: “You were right”?   How much pride does one have to swallow before allowing the parents’ wisdom to sink in?   

About 19 years, in my case : )  Now, don’t get me wrong…I obeyed my parents and I’m the goody-goody…but I also resisted much of the advice of my parents, until I was about 19…and a junior at Georgia Tech.  

My parents love me and raised me right.   They brought me to a faith community in the two main places I grew up: Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Hasbrouck Heights, NJ, and All Saints Lutheran Church, Lilburn, GA.   In those places, my faith was shaped and developed.  I entered many sacred spaces via these faith communities, and I learned a lot about how good and how destructive faith communities might be.  

In all, I learned of God’s favor, and I learned how to listen to God’s callings in my life.  

But until I was 19, I didn’t really, truly appreciate what my parents had to teach me about money and independent living.  I racked up lots of debt and I’m sure it tortured my parents to watch that.   But they knew I had to go and venture out.  Their wisdom was that I would need to venture out and explore how to apply my upbringing into my own independent living.  

I finally accepted and appreciated more and more of their advice.  They never abandoned me…they simply let me embrace my independence.   I realized, though, that I would never be truly independent from them, since I carry my upbringing with me and their wisdom, wherever I go.   Our memories we have made, and the memories we have still yet to make, will be treasured in my heart.  

And now, my wife and I hope to pass on our faith and wisdom to our children.   Let’s see how long it takes them to appreciate whatever wisdom we have collected and now are blessed to pass on : )

P (Prayer):  Lord, you never abandon us…help us to see your presence all around us.  Amen.  

Little Children, Love One Another

S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 13:8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end…13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

O (Observation):  Paul understands that while many spiritual gifts are available to us, the greatest gift of all is love.   Some may speak in tongues, some may interpret tongues, some may prophecy…but nothing, no gift, is greater than love.  

A (Application):   The beloved author of this Gospel, John, is said to have preached late into his 90’s, mostly in the area of Ephesus.   Jerome (an ancient church historian) writes that in John’s late years, when he became too feeble to speak for long, John would be brought into a worship space or someone’s home on a mat.   And he would say this:   “Little children, love one another.” And then, without any further words, he would be ushered out.  

This small encounter, just these 5 words, would be repeated by John, week after week.   Finally, his disciples asked him one day, “Why is it that week after week you share only these words: ‘Little children, love one another’?”  And John replied: “Because it is enough.” 

If you want to know the basics of living as a Christian, there it is in a nutshell. All you need to know is: “Little children, love one another.”

Yes.  It is that simple.  

Love is evangelism.  Love is stronger than words or theologies or doctrines.   Love is what brings us all together. 

May you, little children, love one another.  

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to love.  Amen. 


S (Scripture): Mark 10:13 Now people were bringing little children to Jesus for him to touch, but the disciples scolded those who brought them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me and do not try to stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I tell you the truth, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” 16 After he took the children in his arms, he placed his hands on them and blessed them.

O (Observation): “Receive.”   One doesn’t grasp for the Kingdom of God.  One receives it.  Like a child, full of acceptance and innocence. 

If one grabs onto the things of this world (money, possessions, even relationships), one’s arms will not be open to receive ANYTHING, not to mention the Kingdom itself. 

A (Application): I like my stuff.  I like to take care of…well…most of my stuff.   But I like it all, nonetheless.  (Especially money : $)

I like my technology gadgets, my house, the cars, all of it!   

I like being a pastor, but if that ever got in the way of me receiving the Kingdom, I would have to let that go.   Scary thought…

But the grace of it all is that we don’t have to pursue the Kingdom.  The Kingdom is all around us.  And it comes to us.   We will be reminded of this on Sunday, as we gather to celebrate the gift of Pentecost…the day we received the Spirit, our Advocate, for life.  

What challenges have you faced in order to receive the Kingdom?  What have you let go of to open your arms?  Money?  Position? Privilege?

P (Prayer): Lord, remind us that you are all we need.  You sustained our ancestors and you will sustain us.  Give us grace around the areas we need to let go, in order to receive your Kingdom.  Amen.